Reader Thomas weighs in from the Continent:
Interesting to read about fruitcakes… there is no such thing over here in Austria (and to my knowledge, in Germany). Well, there are some fruitbreads and yes, there is stollen… but all with no booze. I take it that your fruitcake is an offspring of the “drunken” english christmas-pudding (but that one is steamed, not baked)?
Anywho… I was wondering: If you’re not into booze or if you simply can’t have any alcohol, you also can’t have any fruitcake?
I’ll take the first part first. It’s my belief (though I don’t know for certain) that fruitcakes are indeed New World descendants/iterations of English sweet puddings. Those can be quite boozy as well, also and of course for (ehem) medicinal purposes. But no, booze is not essential for a dark, English-style fruitcake. They’re perfectly good without it, though if they’re made that way, there’s really no need to cellar them. They can, and probably should, be eaten fresh, since they’ll stale to some degree if made a month early. I can however imagine a cellared version of a dark fruitcake in which you’d use simple syrup instead of alcohol to keep the cake moist. That would very likely yield a excellent fruitcake with a nice, mature flavor.